Just outside my kitchen window a fight for survival is taking place. All the small birds are on lock-down. A downy woodpecker is sitting motionless on the sunflower feeder, a yellow-bellied sapsucker is as still as a statue in the limbs of a shining sumac, a white-breasted nuthatch is perched, head-down, on the telephone pole, dark-eyed juncos dot the limbs of the apple trees while a mourning dove huddles on a pine bough and a red-bellied woodpecker grips the tip of the telephone pole.
Some secret signal is being passed back and forth: DANGER! DON'T MOVE! At some point, one or more of the birds must have noted the silhouette of a hawk or perhaps it was some small sound that gave away the presence of the predator. Whatever the tip-off, the message was passed with lightning speed and all the potential prey species froze in place. Five minutes have passed and still no movement...
Ah, someone just sounded the all clear. The side yard is now filled with activity. Goldfinches, chickadees, white-throated sparrows, Carolina wrens , and cardinals have joined in. Everyone is busy scarfing down seeds and suet, stoking their internal furnaces to ward off the cold.
Uh-oh! Everybody just scattered! Not a little bird in sight. But out in the sumac, where the yellow-bellied sap sucker huddled just a minute ago, there sits a beautiful sharp-shinned hawk. Her talons and belly are empty though, too much cover available for the little birds to hide in. She's had no success this time and I feel for her - she needs a meal, too. Even though it may offend the sensibilities of some other bird lovers, I wish her luck in the hunt and I hope when she goes to roost tonight it is with a full belly.
(By the way, the photo is of a hermit thrush. I think I may have used this picture before. Treebeard took it from his truck window a while back.)